Eritrea | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Eritrean law guarantees freedom of speech and of the press. However, since a government ban on independent and private media was imposed in September 2001, Eritrea remains one of the harshest environments worldwide for the press and is a leading jailer of journalists in Africa. Following the official ban, an unknown number of government critics were detained, including many journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 15 journalists are still in prison, and many are being held incommunicado in undisclosed locations. However, one local stringer for the Voice of America was released this year after having spent 18 months in prison. Most of those who remain in jail have been incarcerated for over three years, and despite Eritrean legal guarantees, they were never formally charged. In 2005, the president and senior government officials continued to accuse these jailed journalists of espionage and acting as "agents of the enemy" during Eritrea's war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000.

The 1996 Press Law prohibits the establishment of private broadcast media outlets and foreign ownership of media and requires all newspapers and journalists to be licensed. It also stipulates that publications be submitted for government approval prior to release and prohibits reprinting articles from banned publications. Local and foreign independent journalists who continue to operate in the country are constantly harassed, detained, and threatened. In 2005, three foreign reporters were permitted to operate within the country. A Swedish reporter of Eritrean origin, held by the Eritrean government for nearly four years, was released in November, only to be detained again a few days later without charge. He remained in custody at year's end, and officials deny that a decision to release him had ever been taken.

There is currently no independent or privately owned press. Only three newspapers, one television station, and one radio station operate, and they all remain under state control. The importation of foreign periodicals is forbidden. Authorities continued to attempt to restrict even the limited internet use that exists in the country (only 1.2 percent of the population) by threatening to close all internet cafés and confine internet access to libraries and schools.